Nico Rosberg deserves to beat Lewis Hamilton to this year's world championship, according to Red Bull prodigy Max Verstappen.
Rosberg, 31, is on the brink of claiming his first world title after moving 26 points clear of Hamilton with only three rounds remaining.
And while Hamilton was faster than Rosberg in both practice sessions in Mexico City on Friday, the German knows he can afford to finish second in two of the final three races, and third once, and still clinch the title.
Rosberg, who can win the championship as early as this weekend if he triumphs in Mexico and Hamilton finishes 10th or lower, has enjoyed a relatively trouble-free year. In contrast, the defence of Hamilton's third title has been plagued by a number of mechanical problems.
"Of course Lewis had some bad luck, but Nico has had some very strong races, too," Verstappen told Press Association Sport. "That is racing - it is a mechanical sport - and these things can happen.
"This year, definitely compared to last year, Nico really stepped up and he has some great results. He deserves it and he is definitely fighting hard for it. He is fired up because Lewis won the world championship twice, and he finished second and that is not nice. So, you always try to work harder in the winter and become stronger and even better."